A/N:

Summary: Brax goes through a ... regeneration... Rose taunts the Devil.

Notes: It's Canada Day tomorrow, so I'm afraid this must tie you over until Thursday.

Didn't get anywhere near what I wanted to get done today... But I got the hard bit over with. Lots of stuff will happen next chapter, I promise.

I do hope that you enjoy.

~~oooOOOooo~~

The console room of Braxiatel's capsule had a thick air of uncertainty and worry inside it. Only Romana and Andred still remained on board. Neither of the two of them were ones that were willing to remain behind in any situation. They were action-takers, not content to sit back and watch. To see the ones that their hearts beat for in the midst of absolute and horrific danger cut them both to the bone.

More times than once, they had to stop each other from running out of the capsule doors to leap into the fray to protect their beloveds. They both knew that to do so would be nothing more than pointless suicide.

"Can you at least pilot us to the location?" Andred queried quietly. He was clearly battling to suppress his panic. Although he knew beyond a doubt that Leela was more than capable of protecting herself with vicious fervor, he couldn't help but feel protective of his mate.

"It's for the best that I don't," she answered softly. "The Doctor's already there, and I'm sure…"

"So it's fine for him to step in and help," Andred snarled angrily. "To be the saviour to his mate, and yet we are held back like cowards."

"He shouldn't have gone, either," she bit in reply. "But to stop him doing anything is an impossibility. You should know that." She spared him a furious look. "You married a woman who is just as bullheaded and unlikely to take orders as he is."

"I do honour and admire her strong spirit, Romana," he said with a sigh and a look through his brows at the monitor feed. "But there are times when my hearts wish she would be less …" he exhaled. "That she would allow me to stand as her protector, rather than standing always as mine."

"It was what drew you to her," She pressed gently. "Because she was so self assured, brave, and a warrior for not only herself and her people, but to all who need her wisdom and her protection."

"I admit that it was because of that that my hearts fell for her as immediately as they did," he admitted. "Because she was so beautifully dangerous and indelicate. I offered her my devotion and pleaded her hand before the fall of night on our first meeting."

"When a Gallifreyan finds their mate," she breathed out. "It can be that immediate."

"Not so for you and Braxiatel," he suggested. "You played the long game – despite his obvious affection toward you."

"My Hearts beat for him no less for it," she said with a sigh. "I fought it. I did. How could I bind myself to a man who personifies deceit and betrayal in the way that he does?"

"The hearts know," he answered. "Even if we don't."

"The hearts are cruel," she said with a growl. "To bind me to a man I constantly fear I am going to lose one day – if not to his incessant running away, but to his need to put himself in harm's way…"

"More often than not to protect you," he reminded her. "And it always has been for that reason, Romana. Don't forget that his hearts beat for you with the same fierce passion that yours do for him."

"Then he needs to prove that to me," she snarled. "He needs to stay home with me. He needs to settle down, love me, sire me children…" her hands flew to her mouth and her eyes widened with shock at her admission. "Children. Did I just say that?"

"Throw that request across the bond," he remarked with a chuckle. "And he'll be mate guarding in an instant. It's all he's wanted with you for the past half a millennium, but instead he's remained silent on the subject to stand with you in second place behind war and politics." He glanced at the monitor. "Forced to vicariously through his brother and his wife to help raise those children as if his own because he feels he'll never have the chance for himself."

"I never knew." She pressed the butts of her hands to her eyes. "I never knew he wanted it. I never knew how much I wanted it … until now."

"With all due respect of course, but you are very much as selfish to your own needs as he is a slave to his deceptive practices." He shuffled lightly in place and folded his arms across his chest. His eyes were still locked hard on the monitor ahead of them, and of the trio of individuals watching helplessly as Rose fought against the forces within the tornado. "Both of you have been selfish and unyielding toward your own needs. And you shouldn't be, Romana. Connect with your mate properly, forge a deeper contact than either of you are allowing right now. The Good, the bad, and the very ugly of the both of you… stop shielding and start sharing."

She rolled her eyes in a forced manner. "You and Leela. Have you taken up marriage counselling of late?"

"Battling our own demons," he said with a shrug. "As you do. Leela forces openness, and it works to strengthen our union. Perhaps you should try it as well."

"A hard ask of a Time Lord."

"Who said marriage is easy?"

"Especially when you're married to one of them," she agreed with a sigh and a glance toward both Braxiatel and the Doctor. "Menaces toward the hearts, the both of them."

"Show me a Time Lord that isn't," he said with a sigh. "At least one within this grouping at any rate. What I did to Leela …" His head lowered with regret. "We are all a menace toward the hearts of the ones we love, it seems." His eyes flashed wide, and then clenched shut as the monitors blew up with light so brilliant, both Romana and Andred lifted their arms to shield them from the brightness of it. "What in the name of Omega?"

"Ignition of the Huon inside Rose," Romana said gravely. "By the Gods, he actually did it."

"Who, and what did he do?" Andred barked out as he dropped his arm heavily to his side.

"Just wait," she answered with a lift of her hand. "I want to see what happens."

The feed from Braxiatel's camera was down at the ground and shook with puffs of golden breath obscuring the feed. Leela's camera was off centre as well, shaking side to aide as she tried hard to get her bearings. The only cameras with any focus toward Rose and the tornado of doom were those attached to the shoulders of the two wolves. They shifted side to side with an obvious marching of their feet on the ground but were focused on the quickly dissipating tornado as the howling souls escaped their confines to rush across the planet.

Rose hovered in the air; her head hung low. The winds and souls that buffeted her body were no longer surrounding her, neither was the incarnation of the man who had drawn the power from her. She was alone and exhausted, held in the air by the will of the universe alone. It wasn't until the orange-clad body of the Doctor skidded below her on his back that she dropped down to the ground to fall chest upon chest with her worried Time Lord.

Romana's eyes focused on the camera feed provided by Braxiatel. Her hearts hammered with worry inside her chest as he was clearly retching toward the ground. In amongst the glittering motes that were scattered across the screen, she could see droplets of deep orange and crimson blood forming a small puddle on the concrete.

"He's hurt," she managed out.

"Badly, as well," Andred agreed. "Whatever damage he's sustained, Romana. It's internal." He pointed to Leela's feed; her line of sight locked on the heaving form of Braxiatel. "I can't see anything obvious."

"He can't regenerate," Romana said gravely. She could feel the heated burn of tears forming in her eyes. "Oh, please tell me it's not a fatal injury."

"Move us," Andred demanded sharply. "Get us to him, and we can pilot him back to the house, to Phiroi."

"I can't," she said with a waver in her voice. "If he's infected, Andred. If there's even a chance…" She looked to him with defeat and agony in her gaze. "We can't take him back."

"So, you'll let him die?" he barked angrily. "Your mate? You'll let him suffer and die?"

"Oh Irving. I'm so sorry." Her voice was barely audible. "I have no other choice. My hearts, though, they're…"

She swallowed her words when the feed showed him levering himself up onto his knees to slouch backward. Five cameras showed the hot golden glow that had become his eyes, and the straightness of warning in his tone as he demanded that Rose stay back; that he was too dangerous for her to tend to right now.

The glow in his hand, and the patchy shimmer of gold shifting across his body gave Romana hope that perhaps he could regenerate through this and become a new man…

…And then it drew horror to realise that if he had become infected while on the planet, he'd change to something else entirely.

She felt her hearts breaking inside her chest when he shoved his helmet off his head and it became clear that full regenerative power hadn't been restored. Only patches of his neck, face, and head glowed golden. The rest of the skin she could see was darkening toward green.

"…My hearts, Irving, they're breaking."

She fell hard to her knees on the console room floor and called out her horror inside a long cry of his name.

~~oooOOOooo~~

"Stay back," he'd told her. "I'm not safeNot right now"

Rose could argue until she was blue about how nothing about him was ever safe. Not really. But right now, her mind was far more focused on the very real possibility that Brax was going to regenerate. Ordinarily, she'd be horrified to know that any of her friends or family had gotten themselves into such peril that a regeneration was necessary to begin with. But right now. At this very instant. She couldn't be more glad to see the golden fires of regeneration course across his skin…

…What little of it she could actually see, of course.

Braxiatel took a look at his hands, and the glow of his fingers through his fingerless gloves. With rapid movements, he removed the gloves completely to look upon both hands with awe in his eyes. His helmet was forcibly removed next and tossed aside like yesterday's rubbish. He wore a smile of hope and looked toward his brother and Rose with an expression of relief.

"I'm gonna be right here," Rose promised him with a bark in her voice. She was finally on her feet and made a slow approach toward him. She petted her chest and gave him a nod of encouragement. "When it's over. Right here, yeah?"

The Doctor took a sudden and very tight hold of her upper arm to prevent her moving any closer toward her brother in law. She looked down at his hand, and the way his fingers dug into her skin, and then back up at him. "Doctor?" she queried with a deep furrow in her brow. "Bit tight, yeah?"

"Something's wrong," he muttered by way of explanation.

"What?"

He looked to her with worry in his eyes. "The regeneration. Something's going wrong."

She looked toward Braxiatel, still on his knees on the concrete. His skin – the little that was exposed to them – wasn't completely engulfed in the enzyme that would typically trigger a complete regeneration. Instead, he wore patches of gold only on parts of his face, his neck, his hands and his head. Any part of him not covered in the golden motes of regeneration started to wither and wrinkle and shifting colouring between sickly blue-green and black.

"What's happening to him?" Rose asked with panic. Oh, she wasn't stupid. She could see exactly what was happening, but she needed the Doctor to tell her that she was wrong, that Braxiatel wasn't shifting from handsome Time Lord into a creepy, ugly zombie.

"Braxiatel has been infected," Leela answered gravely. There was genuine upset in her voice. "He is to become one of the creatures we had to kill in the forest. Romana. I am sorry."

"No," Rose cried out as she struggled against the Doctor's hold to get to Braxiatel. "Not him. Not Brax. Please."

"I'm sorry, Rose," the Doctor breathed against her ear. His face was set in a wince against the efforts of Rose trying to pull away from him, and of the heartbreak that his brother was doomed to stagger across this world sentenced to a living death. "I'm so sorry."

"Brax!" Rose called out. "Fight it. You have to fight the virus. You can regenerate properly; I know you can. You have to!"

"He can't," the Doctor advised her sadly. "The virus … it's too strong for him to fight."

"I will kill him," Leela offered quietly. "To spare Braxiatel this curse. Let him die as he should."

"You'll have to kill me first," Rose snarled at her.

"It is for the best, Rose," she reminded her kindly. "To walk the lands without a mind and without the beat of his hearts inside his chest. That is not a death that Braxiatel would want."

"Help me," Braxiatel begged in with a scraping voice toward the Doctor. Half of his face was withered and worn, the other still full of life and colour. One of his eyes was still a vibrant brown, the other black, and while he stood tall in front of them all, his gait as he moved slightly forward was dragged and limping. "Thete. You have to …" He let out a cry as both hands shot up to his hairline. One fist clutched hair that was still a vibrant honey blonde, the other pulled a tuft of blackened hair out in a chunk.

Leela raised her blade. "I will end this," she snarled. "Braxiatel will not end up as one of those creatures."

Soliarn shifted around in a circle in front of her. There was clear confusion in his piercing blue eyes as he looked between Braxiatel and Leela. He sniffed at the air and issued a long humph toward his mistress' protector and then turned toward Leela with threat inside his eyes. He leaned back into his haunches in a threatening posture, issuing a warning snarl.

"You will not stop me," she warned the wolf. "Braxiatel must be given an honourable death."

Rose looked toward the human and the animal warriors. She knew that the both of them would fight this to the death and she wouldn't allow it.

"Run!" she cried out to her brother in law. "Please, Brax. Run!"

The half zombie, half Time Lord looked up at her with hurt and confusion inside his gaze.

"Well fix this," she promised him inside a yell as she continued to struggle hard against the Doctor's firm and unrelenting hold. "I'll find you, and we'll fix you. I promise. Just please. God, Brax, run!"

With a nod and a grunt, he turned and fled quickly through a wide crack in the towering wall that had once stood in the face of the tornado. He disappeared quickly into the thick, dense forest; out of sight to all of them.

"Rose!" Leela admonished with a yell. "You do not know what you have done."

"I know exactly what I did," she replied with a growl. "I was saving Brax."

"That is not saving him, Rose," she snarled in reply. "That is condemning him to a death without honour." She looked toward the crack in the wall. "I will find him," she vowed. "And I will give him the death he deserves."

Rose glared at her. "No you won't. I won't let you." She looked to her wolf. "Soliarn!" Rose called sharply. "Protect him. Protect your uncle. Go!"

Soliarn snorted a thick sound and didn't even look back toward his mate as he took off through the crack in the wall to make chase after Braxiatel.

Rose looked to Leela with challenge in her eye as she finally found her freedom from the Doctor's arms. "You are a good warrior with a deadly blade, but not even you can take down a fully grown Dahrama."

"Doctor," Leela snapped toward the Time Lord, who was slumped in defeat. "You can not tell me that you will allow this."

"He's as much alive as he seems dead," Rose argued. "The parts of him that live, they'll keep him alive…."

"I'm afraid not," the Doctor answered with a quiet sigh. "Death spreads quickly, Rose. It won't take long for the infection to spread and for that change to take hold completely…" he swallowed with a wince. "And turn him into one of them."

She curled one hand under her nose to cover her mouth and brought the other one up as a fist under her chin. There was a sob in the back of her throat as she curled into herself. "He's still in there, Doctor. I know he is."

Although proper affection was limited because of his cumbersome space suit, he curled an arm across her shoulder and pulled her into his chest. There was no way he could set his chin on her head, so he made do with stroking her hair instead. "He's gone, Rose. I'm sorry."

"I killed him," she realised painfully. "God, Doctor. This was my fault. I killed him."

"No, you didn't," he vowed passionately. "This is not your fault."

"Yes it was," she corrected him as she pulled out of his arms and strode to look down at the small puddle of Braxiatel's blood. "He was thrown by my blast." She snapped her head to look back at him. "Because I went against what he wanted – what you wanted – and went inside that funnel. He wouldn't have been caught up in it if I didn't go in there."

"what ifs, Rose," he said with light exasperation. "Don't do this to yourself."

"So is this what I do then?" She pleaded out. "Kill the men I love most in the universe? First you, and now Brax?" She walked toward him with horror in her eyes. "Is Mark next?"

"You didn't kill me," he corrected. "I did that to myself.."

"Because of me," she reminded him. "To protect me." She thrust her arm toward the crack. "And now him…"

"To protect everyone," he snapped with frustration. "To save the pain and torture of thousands of Time Lords. Not to save you. If anything, Rose, he used you. Like he uses everyone."

"Calm your words, Doctor," Leela warned him. "Do not let your grief cause further harm. This is not the fault of Braxiatel. It is not the fault of Rose. Put the blame in the hands of the one who deserves it."

"And who's that?" the Doctor asked with a drawl and a wide roll of his tongue behind his teeth. There was definite sorrow inside his posture, which stained his voice as well as the stretch of his words. He drew in a shaking breath and swatted aimlessly at the air to cry and capture his wife for comfort to stop the tears that were damming hard against his lashes.

Leela waited until Rose had walked into the Doctor's arms and pressed herself against his chest to answer the question.

"Rassilon," she answered finally. "This is all Rassilon."

~~ooooOOOOoooo~~

Romana didn't need to hear the conversation over the feed to know that the situation was grave. She saw the reality of it long before the Doctor, Rose, and Leela had seen it. Irving Braxiatel was dead.

There would be no coming back from this. There couldn't be. She'd seen the devastation that the virus left in its wake back on Gallifrey. There was no coming back from being zombified. There was no cure. As much faith as she held in the Doctor and his brilliant mind, she was beginning to doubt that even he'd be able to discover a cure before it was too late.

Romana had fallen to her knees in anguish almost immediately upon seeing the halted regeneration of her husband. Andred had crouched at her side almost immediately to offer comfort, which she had politely waved off. Right now, he was seated in a lotus position less than an arms length away from her, playing with the wolf cub in his lap, ready to offer her comfort if she felt the need for it.

She had since shifted to sit on her hip in a lean on the console of Braxiatel's now grief-stricken ship. Her tears were falling fast down her cheeks, but she found herself unable to dissolve completely into sobbing or weeping. She couldn't. She knew that Braxiatel would be mortified to know she was in any such state of being.

"He's gone," she said finally to Andred. "And this time, he won't be coming back to me."

Andred nodded slowly. While this would be an opportunity to offer up plenty of empty platitudes to try and make her feel better, it was an insult to the both of them to even try it. Instead he spoke out a loud prayer for her fallen husband. He was only marginally surprised that she didn't softly whisper it along with him.

"We need to finish what it was that the both of you started," he said finally. "To honour him."

"Brax and honour," she said with a rueful laugh. "Two words that don't belong in the same sentence." She wanted to keep laughing, but only managed to drop her face into her hands and dissolve completely into tears. "how do I move on without him, Andred? He's been at my side, my adviser, my confidant, my protector, and then my husband for most of my life." Her shoulders shook and she inhaled a shaking breath. "Even when he wasn't within reach, he was still there in one way or another."

"And he still will be, Romana," he assured her. "His spirit lives, and it always will."

A little wet nose sniffed up the length of her forearm, and Romana took her hands from her face to look into the concerned blue eyes of Neroli. "You sound like Leela," she remarked softly to Andred as she leaned backward to let the young pup pad his way over her legs. He looked up into her solemn and sad face, then lifted his nose and let out a sympathetic, broken howl.

"Sometimes – well, more often than not – Leela's right," he said with a smile. "She can come across as whimsical at times, I'll admit, but sweet away the sugar, and what she says makes perfect sense."

She stroked the head and ears of the cub, smiling at the broken and pathetic little howling. "She does, doesn't she?" She looked to him. "I'm glad you and Leela are here right now. I don't know if I could do this without you."

Andred's eyes were wide with horror on the monitors in front of them, and of the image of Rose with her face in a fallen surveillance camera. His voice took on a low and almost grave tone to it. "By all that is holy, Doctor, why are you letting her do that?"

"What is she doing?"

"The last thing anyone should do," he answered. ""She's issuing a challenge to Rassilon."

~~ooooOOOOoooo~~

When Leela assigned blame to Rassilon, Rose lifted her head from the Doctor's chest. The Sevateem warrior was right. She was one-hundred present right. If Rassilon hadn't pulled together this absolute abomination in the first place, then Braxiatel wouldn't have felt compelled to investigate. He wouldn't have needed to land on this God-forsaken planet filled with zombies and dead time capsules. He wouldn't have been infected by a virus thought long extinct.

She wouldn't have needed to step into a tornado of pain and suffering to let his future incarnation force her to become a weapon…

…or the Antidote, as future Brax had called her. Whatever that meant.

With steadying hands, she pressed against the Doctor's chest and levered herself away from him. The pads of her fingers petted at each of his hearts for a moment, and then she stepped from him completely.

His hands chased after her in a weakened and non-urgent manner. It was more a gesture of affection than actual need right now, and once out of his reach, he simply let his hands drop numbly at his sides.

"Rose," he breathed out gently. "We should go into the TARDIS. Get far away from here."

"Not without him," she answered without looking at him. Her eyes dances across the ground through the debris left in the wake of her huon blast. "Soliarn and Brax aren't being left behind."

"It's too late," he assured her tiredly. "We can call back Soliarn, but I'm afraid that Brax is beyond our help now."

"I'm not giving up, Doctor," she said to him.

"I understand," he said brokenly. "And your bullheaded never give up nature is one of the things that I love so much about you. But sometimes, Hearts, we have to admit defeat."

She sighed. "I know. You're right." She looked at him over her shoulder. "I-I won't fight you on it anymore. I'll come back with you," she vowed. "But I have to do one thing first."

"What's that?" his voice held relief.

She spied what was one a small polished smoked glass camera dome and gave a smile. "There you are," she stated firmly as she picked it up and pulled the small recording device from within. Holding it inside the palm of her hand, she held the device upward as though taking a selfie picture on her phone.

"Hello in there," she declared with a forced and broad smile on her face and a chipper tone in her voice. She then tapped her finger on the lens. "I know there's someone watching back home on Gallifrey. So I wonder if you might send word to his Supreme Lord Arsehole Rassilon."

The Doctor's eyes shot wide with horror. "Rose! What are you doing?"

She flicked her head to him. She had one brow lifted high on her forehead and a half smile on her face. "If this gigantic Lord Jackarse wants to fuck around with my family, Doctor, then he's going to have to face me head-on."

"You really don't understand what you're starting here," he said with panic. He looked around him as though expecting the arrival of a full battle fleet of capsules at any moment. "Rassilon is not a man you want to poke at, Rose."

"Neither are you, or Brax, or any of us," she reminded him. "And he's gone and done that, right?"

He lifted his eyes to the top of his helmet. "True."

"And do you honestly think that your coward President, who sends in everyone else to do his dirty work, who kills his own people without thought, who resurrects an extinct virus that has no cure to kill his own, will actually grow a set big enough to come down here himself?"

"Not a particularly pleasant image, Rose," he said with a shrug. "But you're right, of course."

"Of course I am," she agree with a wink in her eye. The smile she held on her face toward her husband fell very quickly as she shifted her eyes back to the camera. "You want me, Lord Wankeron," she challenged with a sneer. "Then come get me. I'm sure you know the temporal coordinates. Don't take too long, I'm waiting."

With a long growl that shifted into a grunt, Rose hurled the camera toward a fallen slab of concrete. It shattered on impact.

"Rose," the Doctor breathed out with light frustration in his voice. "Can you please explain to me just why you felt it necessary to taunt Rassilon and challenge him to find you?"

"He does know where we are right now," Leela agreed. "A direct challenge like that won't bring his troops. It will bring him directly to you."

"I hope so," she admitted with a flat expression.

The Doctor frowned, utterly perplexed by her motive. "Why would you want that?"

"Because if he truly is as almighty as you lot keep thinkin' he is and he actually shows up – then he'll have an antidote on him, won't he?" Her eyes glistened with hope.

The Doctor tilted his head down to one side with regret. "Rose. There's nothing we can do now. He's gone. They're all gone. I'm very sorry."

"I'd listen to him if I were you," Rassilon's voice crooned in from behind her. "There is no possibility of a cure for this virus. I've made sure of it." He exhaled with disappointment. "I didn't want to risk any damage to the …" He looked with furious, yet guarded eyes toward the now silent platform. "Operation I had here."

Rose gasped at the far too close proximity of his voice and spun quickly to face him. She let out a startled yelp of Braxiatel's favourite Gallifreyan swear and staggered back a few steps to collide with the Doctor's chest. He quickly slid himself in a low and guarded walk around her, keeping his wife held protectively behind him. At their side, Leela braced herself into a predatory stance that almost had her standing sideways to them. Her blades were in her hands and her eyes locked on target. At her side, a blue-white Gallifreyan wolf leaned back on her haunches ready to attack.

"Savage," Rassilon said by way of greeting as he shifted his eyes from Leela and the wolf, and let his eyes trail across the group to finally fall upon the Doctor. "Lord Doctor." He then looked at Rose, who peered at him through darkened eyes hiding underneath pinched brows.

"Hello Rose," he said with a smirk and a raking look of contempt up and down her body. "You're much smaller than I thought you'd be."

"Don't talk to her," the Doctor warned darkly. "Don't even look at her."

"Who's that?" she asked against the Doctor's shoulder in a voice meant to be heard only by him.

Rassilon gave her a hardened glare. "I believe you called me Lord Wankeron," he answered. "But most people call me his Supreme Lord President. Rassilon."

~~oooOOOooo~~